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Junior Doctors' Strike Affects Non-Urgent Services

Media information
For immediate release

Date: 16 April 2008

Junior Doctors' Strike Affects Non-Urgent Services

Waikato Hospital will be reduced to providing emergency cover only during next week's planned two-day national strike by junior doctors.

The hospital is scaling back services in order to reduce the number of patients in hospital from more than 600 to 360; this includes neonatal and adult critical care beds.

The cancellation of a number of arranged outpatient clinics and non-urgent operations will allow doctors to concentrate on caring for only the most urgent patients.

Group manager Waikato Hospital Hayley McConnell said Waikato Hospital employed about 305 registrars and house surgeons. As part of contingency planning, the hospital was assuming all junior doctors planned to strike from 22 - 24 April.

Hospital managers were today finalising the plans to ensure safe patient care at Waikato Hospital and Ms McConnell said the community could be confident that there would be essential emergency services.

Planning had been underway for some time.

"We will maintain essential services only, including acute surgery, emergency department care, intensive care, and maternity care.

"We must also strongly emphasise our message that the emergency department at Waikato Hospital is for emergencies and people with a lesser ailment which they feel could be adequately addressed by their GP should go to their GP.

"The hospital appreciates the senior doctors' assistance and we will be doing all we can to provide them with clinical support during the strike," she said.

"We also appreciate the efforts of all our staff during this time."

Cancellation letters have started to go out to Waikato Hospital patients booked for non-urgent surgery and outpatient clinic appointments, with the exception of some medical oncology clinics and some acute clinics across the other specialties.

"We expect to change the mix of patients being admitted for non-urgent surgery in the week leading up to the strike so that people having surgery are discharged before, or soon after, the strike begins," she said.

Waikato DHB's rural hospitals in Taumarunui, Te Kuiti, Tokoroa, Te Awamutu and Morrinsville do not employ junior doctors. Thames Hospital has two junior doctors.

Those patients with operation or clinic appointments affected by the strike will get a phone call or a letter and people need to be aware that services can resume at short notice.

The hospital has set up a helpline 0800 100 178. If the line is busy, callers are encouraged to leave a message and a staff member will return the call as soon as possible.

We are taking the following essential steps:
- We will review and assess patients in our hospitals to determine those who are clinically appropriate for safe discharge. This will enable Health Waikato to focus available resources on patients with acute or urgent needs
- Postponement of the majority of elective surgery over the strike period. Affected patients will be contacted in the week ahead
- Acute and emergency surgery will continue throughout this time
- The majority of outpatient appointments and other procedures over the strike period will be postponed
- A helpline 0800 100 178 is established to respond to questions from patients.


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